All Hail Holy Name: The Emigration of Souls
By Sheldon Firem
The “present’ is that infinitesimally small half-second of reality we are briefly aware of as we emigrate to the next half-second of reality. On either side of the present are two infinite, temporal worlds, the past and the future. These are countries from which we leave as emigrants and enter as immigrants, respectively.
We are never truly a permanent resident of the present; the present is but a fleeting way station for our body, mind, and spirit as we irresistibly depart the past and enter the future. Our memory is the existential glue that interprets and unifies this emigration and immigration of the soul.
This time travel requires guides. The guides are the people we encounter along the way. I found memorable guides at Holy Name. “All Hail Holy Name!”
I grew aware of the transformative nature of time travel when Holy Name High School was located near the intersection of Broadway and Harvard in Cleveland, Ohio. Holy Name Parish, the Gallagher Building, and the Carroll Building were the tangible spiritual home of Irish immigrants, founded in 1864 as a parish with an elementary school, that later added a high school, in 1914.
The Holy Name High School community now continues its successful mission in Parma Heights (1978). Their colors are green and white. The “Green Wave” is its emblem. “The Schools the Thing” is its motto.
I entered Holy Name in 1962. My mother paid somewhat less than $200 for tuition each year. Each class level had about 200 students. Surprising the teacher’s lunchroom pool, I graduated in 1966.
I thought I was merely going to school, a continuance of an elementary education begun at Holy Family Parish on East 131st Street and St. Mary of Czestochowa Parish on East 141st Street in Cleveland. What actually happened was that I was transformed into an emigrant soul through the education I received from the lay educators, and Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati.
High school students can be reluctant time travelers, sometimes refusing to leave their comfortable childhood cocoons, sometimes fixated on the “kicks and bangs and thrills” of the adolescent’s present, sometimes projecting themselves into a future of undefined hopes.
This is precisely the juncture where emigration guides are needed. This is precisely when the educator-guides at Holy Name invited me to time travel.
Who were these educator-guides? While many names are recalled, some examples will illustrate this guided time travel.
Mr. Emil Maras, English teacher: Mr. Maras led students to literature, offering them classics like The Odyssey; he required a weekly essay; he passed out Hoar Hounds while we read silently every Friday. Above all, he led by example, regaling us with an occasional, personal war story, giving pep talks about living fully (the “triple threat” of mind, body and spirit) and privately saying the rosary in church. Emil Maras guided us with logos, the word.
Sister Jeanne Pierre, French Teacher: Sister Jeanne Pierre taught me French for four years. Most students took Latin. Sister not only taught French, but she taught that there was a broader cultural world about which we were ignorant.
Her diminutive stature was superseded by her creativity, as she used vinyl “records” to instruct the class. One of the French essays we translated even involved the making of Beaujolais wine. Sister Jeanne Pierre guided us with eyes to peer over the cultural horizon.
Father George Eppley, Principal: Father Eppley directed the administration of Holy Name, but his guidance shown brightest in the monthly Friday mass he conducted for students and staff. His homilies were rooted in scripture but driven by social justice themes, as he used President John Kennedy, current events and a challenge to students to make a difference in the world. Father Eppley (who later became Mr. Eppley and wrote guest op-eds for the Plain Dealer) guided us with the challenge of social justice through action.
Mr. Robert Gale, Business Law Teacher: Mr. Gale taught law classes to students who thought, as many students still believe, that things have to be “fair.” Well, Robert Gale taught that “fair” is a nice concept, but that a well-reasoned argument, preparedness, facts, and the law are essential to attain justice. Robert Gale guided us with the logic of the law.
Ms. Jean Sperling, History Teacher: Ms. Sperling presented history to high school students whose personal history began in 1948 and was then reaching its zenith in the early to mid-1960s. We were humbled to learn that the people of the past lived and died and mattered. Ms. Sperling also unobtrusively infused the precepts of the Catholic Church into history class in a liberal/enlightenment manner, with which Jefferson, Augustine and Luther would have agreed. Jean Sperling guided histrionic adolescents into historians.
These time travel guides of Holy Name High School positively transformed my emigration from the past and immigration into the future. We rarely if ever can emigrate alone. The journey is not assured. We may resist guidance or the guides we encounter may not be true guides or fate steps in to thwart our transformational journey.
Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau relates in his book, Cape Cod, a true story of ninety-nine hopeful Irish Immigrants sailing from Galway, Ireland to America in 1849. A fierce storm crashes their brig, the St. John (also dubbed a “coffin” or “famine” ship), upon Grampus Rock, a mile from shore near Cohasset, Massachusetts.
Most of the immigrants were tragically lost. The shore was strewn with wreckage and bodies. Thoreau states “…they were within a mile of its shores; but, before they could reach it, they emigrated to a newer world than Columbus dreamed of ….”
We are never truly a permanent resident of the present; the present is but a fleeting way station for our mind, body and spirit as we irresistibly depart the past and enter the future. As Danu, the ancient Irish goddess of wisdom, pointed the way for her charges, the educators of the Green Wave illuminated signposts for their students, for their emigration of souls.